The human lawnmower

By By Aaron Zundel

By Aaron Zundel

“The Protector”

Sahamongkol Film International

Written and directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Starring: Tony Jaa, Nathan Jones, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Bongkoj Khongmalai and Xing Jing

Rated R/110 minutes

Opened Sept. 8, 2006

One-and-a half out of four stars

Tony Jaa. Remember that name. He makes Jackie Chan look like an amateur, and in 10 years he’ll probably be all over American cinema like blood over a crushed face. Too bad his newest movie, “The Protector,” is, with the exception of a couple mind-blowing scenes, terrible.

From the very start, the movie’s got the continuity and structure of a bad acid flashback. About all I can tell you is that there’s a man named Kham (Jaa) who loves his elephants. The elephants get kidnapped for no reason. And then Kham goes to Australia (of all places) where he kills and/or maims many, many people to get them back. This contrived mess peaks when Jaa takes on a gang of rollerblading ne’er-do-wells wielding fluorescent light tubes as lightsabers. Strangely, that’s also when the movie starts to hit its stride.

“The Protector” wins the title for “Best SEGA Fighting Game that Wasn’t a Game but a Movie Instead.” It’s a film that proves Thai director Prachya Pinkaew knows how to direct one hell of a kung-fu sequence?and absolutely nothing else.

But, hey, if you’re into snazzy martial arts and think that stories are for wimps, “The Protector” is better than sex. In fact, the movie boasts two of the best martial arts fight scenes ever put to film.


The first takes place in a burning, yet flooded, Buddhist monastery. I still have no idea why the place was in flames or why Kham was even there, but I can tell you that there’s enough stylized, slow-motion water splashing to make a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model jealous. The second fight consists of a single, unbroken four-minute steadicam shot that follows Kham up several flights of grand stairs, watching him kick ass and destroy everything he comes into contact with the whole way.

Despite this intermittent coolness, however, most of the fights (which are really 90 percent of the movie) suffer from the tired trope of “one bad guy at a time,” mirroring the old SNL ninja sketch to the point of hilarity. It’s a fatal flaw that ultimately keeps “The Protector” from satisfying.

“That’s not fire-it’s BANGARANG!” Tony Jaa fights in a forge or something in “The Protector.”